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Although it wasn't animated until 2003, Gun Frontier began as a manga Leiji Matsumoto drew from 1972 to 1975 that transported two of his most popular characters from the frontiers of space to the American Frontier. The "harsh and barren wasteland" of Gun Frontier seems to be an alternate world that resembles the American West, yet the characters refer to real people and places. Westerner Franklin Harlock Jr., looks just like space pirate Phantom F. Harlock, but it's not clear if Westerner is an ancestor of Phantom's, an alternate identity, or another character entirely. Tochiro remains Tochiro. The two adventurers are joined by Simunora, a willowy woman whose long blonde hair often provides her only covering.
The plot can only be described as a muddle. Tochiro is looking for the survivors of Samurai Creek, a Japanese settlement that was destroyed by evil Caucasians who wanted their gold. But he's also looking for his long-lost sister and her crew of Japanese gunsmiths who were kidnapped because they created superior firearms. Ethnic stereotypes abound, many of them unflattering and outdated.
Although it's only 13 episodes long, Gun Frontier feels repetitious, with too many sandstorms, flash floods, gun battles, train rides, and hangings. And after so many violent conflicts and mishaps, the series simply stops in mid-story. Gun Frontier ranks among Matsumoto's--and Harlock's--lesser adventures, and stretching 13 episodes over four discs with only minimal extras feels chintzy. (Rated 16 and older: violence, violence against women, nudity, profanity, sexual situations, ethnic stereotypes, toilet humor, alcohol and tobacco use) --Charles Solomon
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